SPIRITUALITY TODAYBenedict T. Viviano:
Summer 1982, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 129-143.
Schillebeeckx's Jesus and Christ -- Contributions to Christian Life
As the Christians of the New Testament experienced Jesus as God's salvation from the evils around them, so we too can experience him in our modern world.
Father Viviano, OP, is professor of New Testament at Aquinas Institute, St. Louis, Missouri, and associate editor of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly.
ONE of the major theological events of the seventies was the publication and translation of Edward Schillebeeckx's two massive volumes entitled respectively Jesus(1) and Christ.(2) In many respects these are extraordinary works and the question may fairly be asked: What do they have to say, not just to other professional theologians, but to people trying to lead adult Christian lives? Anything helpful? Anything new? This article is intended as a brief report which might display some of the wealth contained in these two volumes for those who do not have the time to plow through them. Perhaps the article will lure some into reading one or another of the volumes or at least parts of them.
What is Schillebeeckx trying to do in these works? For whom is he writing? Strangely, the books have become bestsellers: Jesus sold like a novel in the original Dutch, and stacks of Christ were on the floors and in the windows of the bookstores in Louvain when it first came out; yet never perhaps were such bestsellers intended for so small an audience. In regard to the Jesus book, I have the distinct impression that the original provocation for writing it came from the experience that several hundred younger Dutch Catholic theologians were becoming convinced that modern biblical studies made faith in the divinity of Jesus an intellectual impossibility. Schillebeeckx set out to save faith in the divinity of Jesus among advanced theological circles in the Netherlands. But there is another possible inspiration for the book Jesus.
Elsewhere Schillebeeckx has spoken of a distinction between Anglo-Saxon pragmatism and French spiritualité, each representing a different approach to (Christian) life. In these books Schillebeeckx is fulfilling his vocation as a Fleming, someone who stands on the border between Latin and Germanic culture and who tries to interpret the one to the other and to achieve a synthesis of both. In the area of Christology the task of reconciliation is peculiarly sensitive because some of the representative examples of French theological patristic scholarship still seem to have developed in a world sealed off from contact with critical biblical studies. The works of Schillebeeckx's critic Jean Galot may be taken as an example of this thought world. It is not that these authors do not quote Scripture; they do, but they tend to favor the Gospel according to John, and John is quoted as just as relevant for knowing the historical Jesus as the sayings material in Luke or Matthew. Some decades ago one of Schillebeeckx's confrères, Franz Ceuppens, wrote a four-volume biblical commentary in Latin on Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologiae to bring the results of modern biblical studies into the special world of the Scholastics. It did some good. Schillebeeckx is carrying on this tradition.
Two further points need to be made about the author's intention. When the reader first takes a look at the Jesus book, what first strikes the eye are the rich bibliographies, especially much recent German work. So the reader may very well expect little more than a report on recent, especially German, research. But this impression, though not false, is quickly overtaken by another. Schillebeeckx is in control of his materials and marshalling them towards his own interests (Christology) and his own conclusions. Secondly, whether Schillebeeckx intended this or not, what he has in fact achieved, in the two volumes taken together, is the construction of a theology of the New Testament. The Synoptics are covered in volume 1; Paul, John, Revelation, and the shorter writings of the New Testament are treated in volume 2; and the focus is on Christology and soteriology. This is no little achievement in itself. No such work can ever be entirely satisfactory in the nature of the case, but what seems beyond question is that the classic synthesis by the German scholar Rudolph Bultmann now appears distinctly out of date.
Bultmann used to be accused of pretending to do exegesis while secretly doing systematic theology. Schillebeeckx, who began as a systematic theologian, has been accused of trying to do exegesis without adequate linguistic preparation, of straying from his professional track. But the experiment must be allowed because someone has to try to put the diverse theological specializations together to get a view of the whole. Most systematic theologians are reluctant to muddy their boots in the exegetical quagmire. Schillebeeckx's rich philosophical background in phenomenological hermeneutics together with his mastery of classical and contemporary philosophical theology and his at least adequate philological training provide him with plenty of tools to control the materials he needs for his synthesis.
We are in a new era because of these works. That can give us a clue to the ideal audience -- the theological student, even though the works are probably unsuitable as textbooks. Whoever the reader may be, the indispensable presuppositions are a willingness to read a serious book about biblical scholars' efforts to recover the original Jesus and the origins of faith in him, and a willingness to allow the author to take risks in an effort to find a way to speak convincingly of Jesus as God's salvation for us in the late decades of the twentieth century. Above all, the reader needs patience.
What are the rewards of reading Jesus? The first is that in this book readers get a Christology which is not an intellectual system, as in the books of Wolfhart Pannenberg(3) and Walter Kasper,(4) but a story -- a story of a man which becomes a story of God. This is the point behind the subtitle of the original Dutch edition: Jesus: The Story of a Living Person. Schillebeeckx is writing narrative Christology. This means that it is hard to summarize and exasperating to a systematic theologian (or a censor) who wants a simple and direct answer to question like "How do you stand on the doctrine of the council of Chalcedon?"
A narrative Christology also means that the outlines are familiar: they follow the main lines of the gospel story. There are some omissions: the virgin birth, the temptation in the desert, the transfiguration. The story begins as in Mark, with John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus, goes on to Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom of God in parable and beatitude, and then settles into a presentation of Jesus' manner of life: his miracles as evoking faith, his meals with sinners, his relationship to the Jewish law, and, above all, his awareness of God as his father in an utterly unique way. This filial consciousness of Jesus, as contrasted with a messianic consciousness, is the most likely source of Christology in the preEaster Jesus himself. The work goes on to the rejection and death of Jesus (of which three early interpretations are given) and then launches into an already famous and controversial eighty-page discussion of the resurrection as a conversion experience of the disciples (320-97).
Significant in this narration is the pastoral intent at the heart of Schillebeeckx's whole enterprise. He does not want Christology to remain only a doctrine, a matter of a few reassuring codewords, but a living force in people's lives. Such an existential intent requires a narrative means, precisely the story of a living person. Indeed, the book ends with a hasidic tale of a cripple who gets so carried away while telling a story that he begins to dance about and is cured. Thus, transformation, new life, is the goal of what Schillebeeckx calls in a pregnant phrase vertellend geloven, a faith which finds expression in telling stories and in life-giving, effective, "telling" deeds.
One of the chapters most refreshingly original and worthy of further meditation is that which includes reflection on Jesus' meals with his disciples and with social outcasts (200-18). For example, the fact that Jesus' followers did not fast while he was with them (Mark 2:18-22) tells us something about the feeling of joy and freedom his presence brought with it. It is not that either Jesus or they were opposed to fasting. They just could not help themselves. They had to celebrate. In three other passages (Luke 7:36-50; Mark 2:10; 2:15-17) Schillebeeckx sees the strong connection between Jesus' eating with sinners and his mediating to them God's forgiveness of their sins by opening up communication between them and God. Thus proclamation, practice, and the unique personhood of Jesus are shown to be an inseparable unity. In still another set of meals (the feedings of the crowds, the meals of the risen Christ with his disciples, especially on the road to Emmaus, and the Last Supper itself), we see another aspect of meals with Jesus. In these cases Jesus is the host, not the guest. What stands out here is the sheer abundance of God's gift in Jesus, a sure sign of the end times (Amos 9:13). In these meals Jesus as God's representative takes the initiative, and precisely in this way the meals become acted-out parables of the process of salvation, of grace. The eucharistic implications are manifold.
This story approach and the chapter on Jesus' manner of life, which includes his meals with his disciples, provide rich food for meditation, for gaining a "sense" of the Jesus who walked the roads of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem, who struggled with evil forces, and who, above all, generated hope and joy in those who came into contact with him.
Another outstanding feature of the book is its presentation of the four earliest gospel types as four early interpretations of Jesus and thus as four early Christologies or credal models (401-38). These four types had already been worked out by Helmut Koester of Harvard, but Schillebeeckx is the first systematician to recognize their fruitfulness in theology. The four types are (1) the apocalyptic, (2) the aretology or collection of miracle stories of a "divine man," (3) the words of the wise man or wisdom collection, and (4) the kerygmatic book we are most used to calling a gospel, one which tells of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is important to understand that none of these four types is found in our canonical Gospels in chemically pure condition. Our Gospels represent a later blend of all four types. Indeed, any of the first three taken alone would today and even in the second century be regarded as "heretical," that is, as an inadequate presentation of Jesus. Each of the four types emphasizes different Christological titles: apocalyptic -- Lord, Son of Man; aretology -- Son of David; wisdom -- Sage, Prophet; kerygma -- Christ, Messiah. Again, each of the four types represents a different kind of piety and therefore also a different kind of social grouping. Apocalyptic represents the faith of an alienated group longing for change. Today we might think of Jehovah's Witnesses or the people given voice by liberation theologians. Aretology represents a devotional group interested in deeds of power, like charismatic healings and deliverances. Wisdom represents a group interested in the sayings of Jesus, such as are collected in the hypothetical source Q or in the recently discovered Gospel of Thomas. From the gnostic tinge which this last work manifests, we can see how such a group could easily spin off into an esoteric coterie of an enlightened elite. Only the kerygmatic gospel type is capable of giving rise to, and representing, an inclusive group which we call the church; it can also include the other gospel types.
To see the first Christians struggling to say what Jesus means to them is encouraging to us today who often have to struggle with the same question. Our starting point is not the same as theirs: we have along history of interpretation behind us, including the councils of the church and the church's teaching through the centuries. But how do we say who Jesus is in a way that makes sense in the world in which we live, in a technological world which is quite thoroughly secularized? To know that the early Christians had a similar struggle can help us to understand that such a question does not indicate a lack of faith but a vital faith which is not satisfied with mere slogans.
THE EASTER EXPERIENCE
The pages on the resurrection have been the most controversial. Here the experimental character of the book is perhaps most evident. Schillebeeckx wants to uncover the earliest stages in the gradual development of faith in Jesus as risen Lord: But those earliest stages have been covered over by later stages. Any attempt at reconstruction is bound to be hypothetical. Critics have been most severe on this section. Indeed, Schillebeeckx added six pages to the English edition (644-50) in answer to those critics, besides publishing a short book, Interim Report(5) in response to these and other criticisms.
Schillebeeckx starts from the shocking but correct conviction that the faith of the church as expressed in the creed -- "On the third day he rose again from the dead" -- could be affirmed whether the tomb was empty or not. St. Paul does not mention the empty tomb, yet he was converted to a powerful faith in the risen Lord. Schillebeeckx takes the conversion of Paul described in Acts (chapters 9, 22, and 26) as a model of what happened to all of the early disciples. Thus, the first Easter experience is both a conversion experience (Jesus has risen, is still alive, has triumphed over death; I am still his disciple; he is my teacher and lord) and an experience of forgiveness, for desertion in the case of the early disciples, for persecution in the case of Paul. In this view the story of the empty tomb is a secondary elaboration. The Easter appearances are primary. Peter's historic decision to reassemble the disciples afterwards is also given due credit. Moreover, Reginald Fuller's question -- Is the resurrection something which happened to Jesus or to the disciples? -- is seen to be badly put from an historical point of view. The resurrection is something which, we know historically, the early disciples believed to have happened to Jesus. Their faith is the basis of our faith.
But -- and this fact can be helpful to us today as we seek to discern the roots, the ground, the basis of our faith and discipleship -- Schillebeeckx argues that our belief does not rest simply on the risen Christ who was preached by the first Christians. Some scholars in this century have insisted that we cannot know anything of Jesus of Nazareth, only about the Christ of early Christian preaching. Schillebeeckx, on the other hand, argues that the only way the early Christians had of expressing who this risen Christ is was to ransack their memories of their experiences with Jesus during his lifetime up to his death. So the identity of the risen Christ is inspired by what the historical Jesus said and did. In telling us of the risen Christ, therefore, the disciples tell us something about the Jesus who lived among them. This means that our faith is rooted in the life of Jesus, although the event and experience of the resurrection was the catalyst which enabled the early disciples to know and appreciate Jesus' life among us and its saving significance from the very beginning.
Although the bulk of the book Jesus is not a Christology in the usual sense, Schillebeeckx shows his mastery of the philosophical and patristic tools necessary for this kind of work in part 4 (573-674). Here the post-Enlightenment need to restate the question of who Jesus is, is recognized. There is an extremely interesting short section on three different rhythms, or rates, of historical and cultural change (576-82): ephemeral, conjunctural (taking several centuries), and structural (taking millenia). On this basis and with the help of British language philosophy, a fresh approach to the concept of person is developed. Schillebeeckx is here striving above all to do justice to the fact that, when we read the Gospels, we have the impression that we are dealing with a human person who has a unique relationship to the divine, and whom it seems appropriate to address with divine titles. Put technically, Schillebeeckx wants to reject the Byzantine and, he asserts, nondogmatic theology which teaches that in Christ there are two natures, human and divine, but only one divine person, and that Jesus was not therefore a human person (anhypostasis). Instead, Schillebeeckx prefers to affirm that Jesus was a divine person in one sense, and a human person in a later, modern sense of person as a center of consciousness. This human person exists within the divine person of the Son of God (enhypostasis). This is tricky business at best, but it is obvious that Schillebeeckx is concerned to affirm the full humanity of Christ, without denying his divinity. Only time and further discussion will be able to tell whether his is the best way of putting the matter; but in any case it would be incorrect to accuse him of heresy, specifically of Nestorianism in the ordinary sense.
DIVERSE UNDERSTANDINGS OF SALVATION
When readers approach Schillebeeckx's Christ, their first reaction may very well be anger at its length -- over 900 pages, longer than the Jesus volume and with smaller print! Fortunately the translation is smooth, the type-setting mostly free from blemishes, and the contents intelligible. The original Dutch title contains four nouns: Justice and Love: Grace and Liberation. These four words come close to explaining what this second volume is about, so long as another word is added: salvation.
Schillebeeckx's question is: What does it mean to confess that Jesus is savior, the Christ, especially for us today? Or: What is the point of Christian faith in our world? What good is it for us? The general answer is salvation, and the specific content of that answer is expressed by the different authors of the New Testament in different terms. For Paul, the answer is in terms of God's justice, or righteousness, or justification of the sinner. For John, the center of faith is expressed primarily in terms of God's love for a fallen world and the mutual love within the community. Grace is another fundamental term, primarily Pauline, with a long history in theology as explaining the divine blessings in Jesus. Liberation as a term for salvation is not only filled with Old Testament associations, especially the memories of the exodus from Egyptian bondage, but also lies at the heart of the Christian apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, and of many contemporary Christian theologies. The English title, Christ: The Experience of Jesus as Lord, brings the word experience into the picture. What Schillebeeckx seeks to do in this volume is describe what the experience of Jesus as savior in our day entails. The New Testament and its terms described that experience for the Christians of the first century or so. What terms do we use? More importantly, how do we act so that we experience Jesus as savior from God?
The book is divided into four parts. The first deals with the conflicting claims of contemporary experience and of the New Testament to our attention and our allegiance. This provides the occasion for discussion of what constitutes experience, the interpretation of experience, the nature of revelation, and the significance of the New Testament for our faith today. Schillebeeckx is arguing that faith in Jesus and the spirituality which flows from it entail experience; they must speak to our experience and become discernible and expressed in our experience. Otherwise our faith and spirituality are unreal and unsubstantial.
Part 2 is a five-hundred-page completion of Schillebeeckx's theology of the New Testament, focused on the theme of salvation, in which a hundred pages each are given to Paul and the later Pauline literature, to I Peter and Hebrews, the Pastoral Epistles, Jude and 2 Peter, then to John; it closes with thirty pages on the Book of Revelation. The remaining 170 pages of this part are devoted to constructing a synthesis of the theology of grace in the New Testament. This is done primarily in two ways: through an analysis of twenty of the metaphors or specific ways of describing the experience of salvation found in the New Testament, and then through a six-part presentation of the social world of early Christianity. Here the early Christian communities are analyzed in themselves as exodus communities, and then in their relations to social and political structures, to the ethical values of their times, and to the "old" Israel in its perduring form. This section closes with a treatment of the church and Zionism.
From a professional exegete's point of view, I am inclined to be somewhat reserved about Schillebeeckx's achievement in this part of the book. His competence and industry are never in question, of course. He illumines most sections with a fresh angle or item of information, but not enough to give me the feeling that he has a mastery of the material or that his exegetical judgment is unfailingly accurate. Size and assiduity alone cannot substitute for a lifelong living with, and expounding of, the texts as continuous wholes and not just as sources of some themes. For example, his study of grace in the Old Testament ransacks the best dictionaries of biblical theology but with no apparent awareness of the criticisms by James Barr of this concordance -- thematic approach to individual words. Questionable are such generalizations as "Jewish spirituality" or "the spirituality of Asia Minor." Such terminology is foreign to the material, dangerously artificial, and potentially cruel in its stereotyping, as is the expression "typically Jewish." Another problematic area is Schillebeeckx's handling of grace in the thought of St. Paul. By concentrating so intently on the theology of grace, he remains trapped within an Augustinian way of posing the problem, a way that is not an objective presentation of the mind of the historic Paul.
But for the nourishment of the spiritual life, part 2 provides rich fare. Schillebeeckx helps us see how different Christian communities in various localities and diverse circumstances experienced Jesus as their savior from the real evils that bore down on them. Their efforts to express this experience and to say why or how Jesus was their savior have yielded the New Testament witness. His 127 pages devoted to Johannine thought powerfully convey a sense of the living Jesus' active presence and influence in the lives of his disciples then and now.
Many years ago Adolf Deissmann had isolated five basic Pauline metaphors for salvation and restored concrete contours to them by explaining their background and original reference in the everyday life of antiquity. This list was expanded to seventeen terms by Otto Kuss in his commentary on Paul's letter to the Romans but without illustrating each of them. Schillebeeckx has enlarged the list by drawing upon other New Testament literature and has explained each term or metaphor briefly. He has also organized them into more basic metaphors (for example, being a child of God, the gift of the Holy Spirit, access to the Father) and less basic ones (for example, freedom from slavery, reconciliation of friends, expiation through blood-sacrifice, forgiveness of sins, peace between warring states, renewal, fullness of life). This collection (468-511) is rich and worthy of further reflection.
Schillebeeckx is careful to relate this redemption to its appropriate response in liturgical celebration and praise, to state clearly what we are freed from as well as what we are freed for. Here he seems to me to be very close to the texts, neither cheapening their sense by sloganeering nor underestimating their life-giving force, recognizing the eschatological tension in which Christians live. The only criticism one could level is that he does scramble the vocabulary and mentality of different parts of the New Testament, but he has earned the right to do this by his previous separate analyses; nowadays, moreover, it is perhaps precisely the task of the systematic theologian to demonstrate the underlying harmony in the cacaphony of New Testament voices which the exegetes have so acutely discerned.
The vast second part, almost a library rather than a part of a book, is followed by a very brief third part on the structural elements of the New Testament theologies of grace. After touching on the problem of predestination and election, Schillebeeckx lists four fundamental themes, which could be interpreted as embracing the persons of the Trinity plus our eschatological destiny; that is, God the Father is the controlling Lord of history; this is seen most clearly in Jesus Christ; we follow Jesus in and through the Christian church sustained by the Spirit of Jesus; and our goal is eternal life with the three divine Persons. These themes constitute "four structural elements which Christians must take account of in any contemporary reinterpretation in which an echo of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be detected, if they want to preserve this gospel in its wholeness while at the same time making it speak to their own age in word and deed" (638).
The fourth part of Christ shows Schillebeeckx as the master systematician who interprets the whole world on the basis of Christian faith and relates that faith to every dimension of contemporary concern and longing for deliverance. It contains two major sections: the problem (utopian hopes and the history of human suffering) and the answer, or at least an attempt at an answer (redemption and liberation). Two guiding principles determine the conclusions of this part. First, humanity is not the subject of world history, because men and women die before historical movements complete themselves. God is the only adequate subject of history. Humanity is the theme of world history, not its subject. The second principle is that here on earth humanity can experience salvation only in fragments, in brief moments. On the basis of these two principles, which are really a lesson in humility, all interpretations of humanity's future are evaluated; those interpretations which appear to violate these principles are set aside as illusory exaggerations. This sobriety of principle leads Schillebeeckx to accord ethics a certain priority over the "religious" (that is, theological) sphere (658), as well as to analyze carefully types of utopian thinking (661-70).
SALVATION FOR SUFFERING HUMANITY
An exceedingly fine section of the book is the survey of responses to suffering in ten world religions or quasi-religions: Manichaeism, Israel, Greece, Rome, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, the Enlightenment, and Marxism (672-723). Each chapter is a masterpiece of compression and detached objectivity. Christianity is treated in its chronological place and is not especially singled out as superior within the series (even though the book as a whole is unmistakeably a work of Christian theology). This does not prevent the section on Christianity from being very well done and an improvement on earlier treatments of the same subject. "Jesus breaks with the idea that suffering has necessarily something to do with sinfulness .... It is possible to draw conclusions from sin to suffering, but not from suffering to sin" (695). Talk of the permissive will of God is rejected as a meaningless expedient and a tautology insofar as it is offered as an explanation of suffering. "Christianity does not give any explanation for suffering, but demonstrates a way of life. Suffering is destructively real, but it does not have the last word. Christianity seeks to hang on to both elements: no dualism, no dolorism, no theories about illusionsuffering is suffering and inhuman -- however, there is more, namely God, as he shows himself in Jesus Christ" (699). "The permissive will of God" is only an expression of our bafflement in the face of suffering, an affirmation that suffering is real and yet God, too, is real. In fact, God transcends evil, not by allowing it, but by overcoming it in Jesus Christ.
In framing his own theology of the Christian response to evil, Schillebeeckx begins with a list of seven "coordinates" which relate human nature to divine salvation, that is, seven factors which must enter into salvation, or the experience of salvation. Salvation, according to Schillebeeckx, must embrace human bodiliness, nature, and the ecological environment; the social nature of men and women; humanity's need for institutional (political) structures; human conditioning by time and space, which calls for international solidarity and universal concern; humanity's utopian religious consciousness; and the happy combination, or "irreducible synthesis," of all these factors (731-43). These coordinates should be regarded only as useful conceptual tools to guide our thinking; they should not be seen as an absolute limit to God's saving power.
As a final preliminary to a statement of his own position, Schillebeeckx reports a debate on the relationship of salvation history to world history, canvassing the views of Cullmann, Pannenberg, Rahner, Metz, Kuitert, Gutierrez. A consideration of this list suggests that his interest lies in social rather than in individual, personalistic, theories of salvation.
Schillebeeckx presents his own views in three propositions. (1) Earthly salvation is an inner component of Christian salvation, and yet any claim to total self-liberation turns into a new bondage and alienation. (2) Christian faith leads us to involvement in politics but cannot completely determine our choice of political party, since we live in a de facto pluralistic situation. The ambiguities are such that no party should call itself Christian, except in emergency situations like a persecution (773, 383f.). In so far as he can be pinned down, Schillebeeckx is in favor of a "personalizing and democratic socialization" within an absolutely indispensible twoparty system functioning openly (661, 780). Beyond that, the merit of this discussion is its complete honesty about the late capitalist-bourgeois stranglehold on the churches and the agonies of conscience to which this leads. Schillebeeckx does not break this stranglehold, but he gives evidence of having listened intently to some of those who want to. The most that one can say is that he knows the score. (3) Final, end-time salvation is the living God, therefore necessarily indefinable; yet God is accessible both through resistance and contemplation, politics and mysticism, success and failure, prayer and fragmentary practices of reconciliation. The last word is not sociology, psychology, or politics, but love.What, then, is salvation in Jesus from God? I would want to say: being at the disposal of others, losing oneself to others (each in his own limited situation) and within this 'conversion' (which is also made possible by structural changes) also working through anonymous structures for the happiness, the goodness and the truth of mankind. This way of life, born of grace, provides a real possibility for a very personal encounter with God, who is then experienced as the source of all happiness and salvation, the source of joy .... This is existing for others and thus for the Other, the wholly intimate and near yet 'transcendent God,' with whom Jesus has made us familiar. (838)
Some concluding evaluations. In Schillebeeckx's work Roman Catholic, indeed Dominican, theology has regained its sea legs after the conciliar turbulence (see the remark at the bottom of page 182). We are in a new era when a book on grace makes no mention of Molina, Banez, De auxiliis, or the Jansenists. The atmosphere is definitely post-Enlightenment. And yet there is an undeniable continuity with the tradition, particularly the Thomistic tradition; and this may not have been a good idea. Schillebeeckx's basic model of salvation is Bevrijding, liberation, defined in terms of justice, love, and grace. This remains a Thomistic selection and is fine as far as it goes. But Schillebeeckx is so unwilling to be programmatic that he may fall into the banality of synderesis: "For this gift of grace or the forgiveness of sins gives and teaches us the mores Dei: furthering all that is good, opposing all that is evil" (834). Other Thomists, like Bartolomé de Las Casas, have known how to be more specific than that. In the practical order there is a need to be one-sided: Do this! Otherwise theology remains balanced but inert.
From a scriptural point of view two questions linger in my mind. Although Schillebeeckx frequently refers to the kingdom of God, even in the systematic section, he never makes it into a central theme or focus, as Paul Tillich does.b This may be another case of unwise fidelity to Thomas. In any case, it is not enough to know Scripture well. One must allow it to challenge, even shatter, one's philosophical presuppositions, to call a few shots. One must allow space for unphilosophical themes like prophecy, apocalypse, the Holy Spirit, and the kingdom of God. Then one's theology might be accused of being primitive or crazy, but it might be more powerful.
But Scripture is not just dithyramb. It has its own rationalism, called the wisdom tradition. One approach to salvation is to say that the Bible offers us wisdom about life, and thereby a partial freedom from the encircling ambiguity. Kant once said there are three basic questions: What can I know? What should I do? What can I hope for? Christian faith answers the last two, plus another: Why am I here? Of course, all of this is present at least implicitly in Schillebeeckx, but it could have been developed as a distinct theme. "To those who are called . . . Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24; cf. v. 30).
- Jesus: An Experiment in Christology, trans. Hubert Hoskins (New York: Seabury Press, 1979).
- Christ: The Experience of Jesus as Lord, trans. John Bowden (New York: Seabury Press, 1980).
- Jesus, God and Man, trans. Lewis L. Wilkens and Duane A. Priebe, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press 1977).
- Jesus the Christ, trans. V. Green (New York: Paulist Press, 1976).
- Interim Report on the Books Jesus and Christ, trans. John Bowden (New York: Crossroad, 1981).
- Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), p. 356ff.
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